‘X-fac­tor’ Kolbe back to lift Spring­boks

Wing beats an­kle in­jury af­ter miss­ing semi-fi­nal Eras­mus con­firms fi­nal will be farewell as coach

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Rugby World Cup -

in Tokyo

South Africa’s key winger Ch­es­lin Kolbe has warned Eng­land that he is “100 per cent” over his an­kle in­jury, af­ter be­ing named in the Spring­boks’ line-up for to­mor­row’s Rugby World Cup fi­nal in Yoko­hama.

Head coach Rassie Eras­mus said he was de­lighted to have a man with real “X-fac­tor” back in his ranks.

Kolbe has been in scintillat­ing form at this World Cup. Al­though he has only scored two tries, the for­mer Sevens player turned Toulouse star has been an ef­fer­ves­cent pres­ence on the right flank, in par­tic­u­lar giv­ing New Zealand’s de­fend­ers a tor­rid time in their open­ing game.

Kolbe was the only change to South Africa’s team from their semi-fi­nal vic­tory over Wales last week­end. The 26-year-old comes in for S’bu­siso Nkosi who drops out of the match-day 23.

“I have been train­ing with the team for the last two weeks and I am re­ally con­fi­dent I am back to my old self,” Kolbe said. “My an­kle has healed up re­ally nicely and I am grate­ful to get an­other op­por­tu­nity to wear the green-and-gold jer­sey and es­pe­cially to play in the fi­nal.”

Kolbe said he felt his jour­ney was part of a higher call­ing. “Ev­ery player is dif­fer­ent but I am a firm be­liever in my faith,” he said. “I know God has dif­fer­ent plans for dif­fer­ent peo­ple and he has made sure I am ready. My faith is re­ally strong. I am re­ally con­fi­dent. I will never go on the field when I am not 100 per cent be­cause that is just be­ing self­ish.” Eras­mus con­firmed yes­ter­day that he would step down as Spring­boks coach af­ter the match in order to fo­cus on his po­si­tion as South Africa’s direc­tor rugby. His fi­nal press con­fer­ence be­fore the of game was un­der­stated, cer­tainly in com­par­i­son to Ed­die Jones’s bom­bas­tic rhetoric hours later.

Eras­mus said that just be­cause South Africa had reached a World Cup fi­nal they did not think they were “now sud­denly a force back in world rugby”, adding that the coun­try and the game in South Africa needed to cap­i­talise on the op­por­tu­ni­ties this fi­nal would present.

“It is my last Test match of be­ing head coach,” Eras­mus said. “It’s an emo­tional one. I didn’t think 25 Tests would go that quickly. I will still be heav­ily in­volved what­ever way we go in terms of the next Bok coach.

“Just be­ing the coach gave me such hope again for South African rugby. Two years ago, ev­ery­body was talk­ing about ‘hope’, but I was like, ‘Let’s just fo­cus on the rugby’.

“I’ve changed my mind. If we play with pas­sion and peo­ple see it, it can help them for­get about their prob­lems. We have to use this plat­form.”

Eras­mus said the most im­por­tant thing was to use the World Cup as a spring­board: “We’ve reached a World Cup fi­nal, and we will try our ut­most to win, and we think we are in with a good chance of giv­ing Eng­land a real go.

“But the big chal­lenge is to be con­sis­tent. It’s a nice spring­board to take it for­ward, with the play­ers and all the good coaches, the fa­cil­i­ties and good struc­tures, we should stay in the top three in world rugby. Or at least con­sis­tently com­pete for that.”

Fran­cois Steyn, the only survivor from the Spring­boks’ vic­to­ri­ous 2007 World Cup team, said he was not ex­pect­ing to come on and hit 60-me­tre penal­ties as he used to, al­though he did not deny it might come down to a kick in the end.

“I don’t know,” he said of the prospect of com­ing on and kick­ing a cru­cial penalty. “When I was younger I didn’t worry about it. I don’t know if I hope it doesn’t hap­pen, be­cause I’m stress­ing a bit more these days. But Han­dre [Pol­lard] can kick the ball a mile, so I’m just there to sup­port.”

Ready: Ch­es­lin Kolbe has been on top form

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